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Self-determination

Thoughts from coach, Lisa Stephenson
Blog 130 Lisa 0515 RE Tcrop 2

Hi there everyone,

I wanted to write to you about the core reason people work with a coach. There are lots of different types of coaches in the world. In fact, it can be a tough industry to navigate if you haven’t worked with a coach before. I have always held a strong belief that coaches have a very different role to mentors, consultants or therapists. The place that I coach from is very purist: the coaching agenda belongs to the client, and it takes place in a confidential space where the client truly has autonomy in their thinking, feeling and growth. It’s a place where self-determination thrives.

We spend so much of our life consuming the beliefs of others. From the moment we are born we are immersed into the culture of our family. Financially, spiritually, physically, emotionally – our DNA gets programmed. Then we attend school and are taught the theories, knowledge and experiences of whatever education system we are placed into. Soon we discover we must navigate social constructs that define what success is, what’s healthy, what’s acceptable, what’s trendy, and what’s important.

When a client comes to coaching we audit all aspects of how they live and work, and feel about themselves, other people and the world. It’s not my job to judge or validate any of what they share. The role of the coach is to hear, reflect back, notice what’s said and not said, ask prodding questions to understand further, acknowledge insights, and support the client to work through a light bulb moment if it needs action or reframing.

What we are talking about is self-determination, a concept outlining an individual’s need for autonomy, competence and relatedness to become fully functioning and well adults. This means making decisions without the influence of others, and exploring your views to determine if they are actually yours or what you inherited from your parents. In the coaching space, you are the grown up who gets to decide what you want to talk about, work on and let go of. This is where real personal growth happens.

When a skilled coach asks the right questions it’s amazing what becomes possible. From determining where the client wants to go, to clarifying where they are now, to designing strategies to move forward with unconditional support and accountability: it’s the ultimate form of personal responsibility to step into coaching of this kind. Every decision that builds to every goal is driven by the client. The coach’s role is, essentially, to empower the client.

I’ve put together a list of five common limiting beliefs that clients present with that get in the way of self-determination:

  1. I don’t know what do to. My question: What do you think you would do if you did know?
  2. I just want to be happier. My question: Do you know what happiness means for you? (this can rarely be articulated)
  3. I can’t make things happen. My question: How is this belief serving you?
  4. I’m not sure I’m good enough. My question: What if you’re wrong?
  5. I don’t have enough time. My question: Is that really true?

Self-determination is you deciding what your future is going to look like, how you will do relationships, what your body feels like, and what your attitude is towards yourself, other people and the world around you. Learn more about self-determination as the key to a flourishing life in this video from the Happiness and its Causes conference. If you enjoy the energetic Paul Taylor, you can listen to an in-depth interview with Professor Richard Ryan (who speaks in the previous linked video), one of the co-founders of this theory, on Paul’s podcast The MindBodyBrain Project. Ryan and the other cofounder Professor Edward Deci have created a website where you can explore Self-Determination Theory.

Undoing all those threads from your past can be challenging. Working through them with a coach is a unique, confirming and remarkable experience that will firmly set you on a self-determined path, one that will lead to greater happiness, personal success and wellness.

- Lisa Stephenson,
Founder The Coach Place Global.

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